Note: This Half-Blood Prince missing moment is the conclusion of a trilogy of short fics that began with Mad About the Boy and continued with Horntails and Hippogriffs. I had originally planned to post it during the autumn of 2006 (on FictionAlley), but due to computer problems, I thought it was irrevocably lost and that I hadn't backed it up. I recently discovered that I had emailed it to myself (with no subject line, making it hard to find). It shouldn't be difficult to follow on its own, but I recommend beginning with the two fics above, since this refers to conversations Harry and Ginny shared in Mad About the Boy and in Horntails and Hippogriffs. So here you go—the world premiere of my first truly "new" fic in over ten years. Enjoy!
Ginny moved inexorably with the mass of students toward the entrance hall as the population of the school descended upon the Great Hall for lunch. The morning's lessons had been tedious and trying, with constant warnings about how the fifth year Gryffindors needed to be far more concerned with their upcoming OWL exams and less with their social lives. Professor Snape had been especially snide about this, eyeing Ginny scornfully as he glanced critically through the parchments with their latest essays. She glared back at him defiantly but he turned smoothly to the blackboard, waving his hand to make their homework magically write itself on the board while he continued to strongly imply that none of them were likely to receive an OWL in Defence Against the Dark Arts because of how lazy, indolent, and easily distracted they were. She almost missed Dolores Umbridge.
Ginny knew that it could not possibly have escaped Professor Snape's notice that she and Harry were a couple. Harry had told her that he suspected this was why Snape was extending his detentions more and more each Saturday, to curtail his opportunities to spend time with her. Not that we have much opportunity even when he's not in detention. She wished she'd had the nerve to retort to Snape that she'd been revising for her OWLs for eight hours the previous day, a Sunday, when she might have been spending time with her boyfriend.
Her boyfriend. It was so strange to be able to think of Harry that way. However, even though he was only in detentions on Saturdays, Harry had his own schoolwork to keep up with, plus he was as determined as ever to keep tabs on Draco Malfoy—with good reason, she agreed, since he had attempted to put an Unforgivable Curse on him before Harry had cast the curse that cost him his Saturdays for the remainder of the term, and possibly into the next school year. Because of her revision schedule and Harry's mission to expose Malfoy, plus another Snape detention, they'd spent a grand total of thirty minutes together in the past three days, not counting meals, when they could at least sit side-by-side at the Gryffindor table.
She sighed as she sat for lunch, leaving a space beside her for Harry and wondering if it was possible to go into withdrawal from not snogging him. She was starting to feel rebellious about having promised Ron not to do this in public, though she had quite rightly called him a hypocrite for making this demand, after his public displays with Lavender Brown. Perhaps she would scandalise the entire school by spending an hour snogging Harry at the Gryffindor table, in full view of everyone…
She'd no sooner had this thought than hands covered her eyes and a familiar voice said, "Guess who?"
Ginny grinned. "Cormac? No, it's Michael, isn't it? Oh, wait, don't tell me: Neville."
Harry removed his hands from her eyes, laughing. Ginny turned to see him grinning, his eyes crinkling with merriment. "Trying to wind me up, are you?"
"Just taking the piss," she laughed.
"I know," he said, clearly not put-out. "Listen, I thought—why not eat outside today, yeah? Just—get away." He whispered in her ear, "Some alone-time."
She shivered with delight as his breath rushed across her neck. Standing on her toes to put her mouth beside his ear, she whispered back, "Brilliant." Eyeing Ron across the table, where he sat with Hermione, she said more loudly, "Harry and I are going to have a picnic lunch today. See you later." Ron looked disgruntled before sighing and shrugging, while Hermione raised her brows and pressed her lips together. Ginny thought, I wouldn't need to sneak off with Harry at lunch if you weren't such a hard task-master.
Harry took sandwiches and apples from the centre of the table and wrapped them in napkins he tucked into his bag. They left the Great Hall, fairly skipping as they ran out of doors into a beautiful late spring day. The lethargy that had felt baked into Ginny's limbs after the morning's lessons dropped away as they ran toward the lake. She felt as free as the day of the Quidditch final, after Harry had kissed her and they'd left the common room together. She beamed at him as they ran; he smiled back, making her heart leap, as it always did. She had to check that her feet were still in contact with the ground, that she hadn't started flying without a broom. Sometimes when she was with Harry, she felt lighter than air, as if she might float up and up, but in a good way, a happy way, not like the time he'd inflated his aunt, a story she had chuckled over when he'd told her.
They reached the far side of the lake, panting from their run. Harry dropped to the ground, leaning against a large boulder half on land, half-submerged in the water, and she collapsed beside him, trying to catch her breath. They sat holding hands, their breathing gradually slowing to normal as the sun beat down on them.
Finally, Ginny said, "I don't know about you, but I'm starving." She was actually starving more for snogging than for food, but felt shy about saying this, though she suspected he might feel the same, since he had proposed the picnic.
"Erm, right," he said, as if waking, looking in his bag for the food. They made short work of the sandwiches and apples, tossing the cores into the lake, where they were immediately claimed by the Giant Squid.
Sitting against the boulder again, Ginny looked at Harry expectantly. That was all it took—a moment later, he was kissing her, his hand on the back of her neck as she laced her fingers into his hair. His other hand slid down her back, pressing her to him, and after a minute she moved her mouth to his neck, where stubble had been growing since the day before, since he'd overslept and hadn't had time to shave before lessons. She liked the slight shadow on his skin, not minding that it was a little scratchy; it aged him, made him seem more like a man, less a boy. She was still working up the courage to tell him she thought it was dead sexy, stumped about how to work it into a conversation without sounding like a complete idiot.
He moaned into her hair as she licked his neck. Slipping his hand under the wide sleeve of her robe, he worked his way toward her shoulder and lightly stroked the back of her upper arm, making her squirm as she sighed against his neck. She'd quickly learned that Harry had very nice hands, and she liked finding out where he wanted to touch her and being surprised when it happened. He claimed her mouth again and she slid her tongue against his, feeling him shudder happily. His hand still caressed her arm, making the hair stand on her skin and warmth pool in her centre as if lava flowed through her. The noonday sun was baking the top of her head but it was nothing compared to the warmth Harry was producing inside her, threatening to make her spontaneously combust.
"Oi! Sorry! Um, I, erm, I didn' know anyone was doin' summat 'ere—"
Harry and Ginny looked up in alarm to see Hagrid emerge from the forest not five yards away. Harry's face reddened and she assumed hers had done the same, though it was hard to tell, since she was so warm from both the sun and what they had been doing.
"Erm, it's okay, Hagrid." Harry took his arms from around Ginny and she put her hands in her lap, gazing at them studiously, not meeting Hagrid's eye. "Cheers, Hagrid. Carry on," Harry added, as if hoping that Hagrid would indeed move on quickly and not mention this to anyone.
"Right, right," Hagrid said. Ginny looked up to see that he was also red-faced, even without the benefit of drink. He walked quickly toward his hut with a brace of—something—over his shoulder, presumably to hang from the rafters in his home after being properly skinned. Or plucked. Or whatever one did with the creatures in question.
Harry was quite red. "Sorry about that. It's not easy to get privacy around here, is it?"
Students often walked around the lake in the afternoons, so that was another way in which someone could intrude upon them. "True, but—" Her eyes went to the shrubbery growing beside the boulder and she felt inspired. Standing, she pulled out her wand. Harry got to his feet, a lopsided smile on his face.
"What did you have in mind?"
"A little creative re-landscaping. I have Herbology after lunch, and practiced for today's lesson. Perhaps this will impress Professor Sprout." She pointed her wand at the shrubs and cried, "Movere Frutices!"
At once, the shrubbery uprooted itself from the earth. Guided by Ginny's wand, the plants floated over the ground until they formed a wall between the boulder and the open area where Hagrid had been. When she had them where she wanted, she said, "Plantavique Inculta!" Their roots burrowed into the earth and they were firmly ensconced in their new home, giving Harry and Ginny a small oval shelter bounded by shrubbery on one side and the boulder on the other, safe from prying eyes.
Harry grinned and pulled her to him again, claiming her mouth. When they came up for air, however, she turned her head, seeing the trees of the forest quite clearly over the tops of the bushes, which came to her shoulders. "I think we need to be on the ground again to actually be hidden," she said, suspecting that Harry wouldn't mind this at all.
"You don't need to ask me twice," he said, taking her down with him, lying on his back and pulling her on top of him. Her hair formed a curtain around his face and she lowered her mouth to his again as he drank her in, his hands sliding down her back and resting on her bum, though she wished she could feel more through her robes and the clothes she wore beneath them. She might as well have been wearing several blankets.
Harry also seemed to feel overdressed. He broke the kiss and said, "Ginny, do you mind if, well—if I take off my robe? It's just—it's black, and it's a hot day, and we're in the full sun—"
"Of course, Harry. Turn it over—then it won't have grass stains on the outside, only the inside, and people won't know what we've been up to."
The lopsided smile returned as she sat beside him so he could stand to take off his robe. "And what have we been up to, Ginny?" he said, reclining on the spread-out robe in his trousers and a rumpled white shirt with the sleeves turned up. He loosened his tie and undid his top shirt-buttons. Her fingers itched to unbutton the rest, but since the day in the Care of Magical Creatures classroom, she'd restrained herself from doing this, not wanting to frustrate Harry any more than necessary, though she'd pictured his bare chest in her mind many times.
"Making up for lost time," she said, lowering her mouth to his again as he twisted her hair into a thick rope behind her. This time when she moved her mouth down his neck she could go a little farther, but after a moment, Harry tapped her on the shoulder and looked at her expectantly. She looked back. "What?"
"Well, erm, I mean, you can take off your robe too, Ginny. If you don't want get grass stains on it," he added, his eyebrows dancing.
"I see what you mean," she laughed, sitting back on her haunches and unfastening her robe. Just as she was about to slide it off her shoulders, however, she remembered that morning and instead pulled it tightly around her chest, swallowing. Harry frowned.
"What's wrong, Ginny?"
"I, erm, I'm sorry Harry, but I can't take off my robe," she said in a rush, wishing she'd known they'd be doing this today.
Harry sat up, looking very interested in the reason. "And you can't because—?" When she bit her lip, he looked like he wanted to eat her alive. In a good way. "Are you—are you not wearing proper clothes beneath your robe, Ginny?" he whispered, a smile twisting his mouth. She wasn't certain she wouldn't eat him alive in a moment—also in a good way.
"Not—not entirely," she admitted.
He frowned. "Wait—when I had my hand up your robe sleeve, I was touching your blouse." He pointed to her neck. "And I can see the collar, and your Gryffindor tie. Are you—are you not wearing a skirt and knickers, Ginny?" he whispered, his eyes very dark, despite the noonday sun. His pupils were so large the green had almost entirely disappeared.
She swallowed and licked her lips. "I most certainly am wearing my skirt and kni—knickers, Harry," she affirmed, stumbling over knickers. It seemed like the most intimate thing she'd said to him, but she knew she had to say something even more intimate, and she wasn't convinced she could go through with it. "But—this morning, I discovered that after the house-elves had taken my dirty laundry, they'd left me with just one bra, which was not only too small but had a broken clasp. Rather than take the time to fix and alter it, I reckoned I'd be covered by my robes all day and who would know if I went about without it? It's a hot day, I still have my blouse, the robes are thick and dark, and—"
"—so you've been attending your lessons without a bra, Miss Weasley?" he breathed, staring at her in awe. "You naughty, naughty girl…" Harry bit his lip before licking it slowly, making Ginny feel like her insides were melting.
"I—I didn't think it would matter. It wasn't like—like I knew we'd be doing this." But as she spoke, she realised that the timing was actually quite perfect—if she had enough nerve. And then either she or Harry would have to make sure things didn't go too far.
That was the bit that stymied her. As long as they remained fully clothed, or mostly clothed, they could keep their physical relationship from going too far too fast (which was why she hadn't unbuttoned his shirt again). It had been a challenge at times, even with the clothing barrier. The main things that had kept them from treading into dangerous territory were time constraints and a lack of privacy. Now they had an hour, and Ginny had seen to it that they had some privacy, as long as Hagrid didn't return and glance over the shrubs she had shifted.
Harry's eyes pleaded with her. "Now, Ginny, you've seen my chest. And when you said I hadn't seen your chest you said 'yet'." He looked at her hands, clutching the robe around her torso. "You said yet," he repeated, raising his eyes to hers again.
He looked so sweet and hopeful she couldn't help laughing. Nervous though she was, she slipped the robe from her shoulders, feeling his eyes on her, watching his expression change and his mouth drop open as he gazed at her, speechless for a long minute.
"Oh, Ginny," he breathed at last. "That—that is a very thin blouse."
She swallowed, knowing that the light, summery fabric left absolutely nothing to Harry's imagination. She felt wicked and bold; the way he stared made her wonder if that's all he wanted to do for the rest of their hour together. A shiver ran through her and she knew without looking that her nipples had stiffened, brushing against the fabric and making her catch her breath as they made contact.
"Bloody brilliant," Harry whispered, reaching out to reverently cup the underside of one breast through her blouse, moving his thumb to the hard point and pressing it. Ginny closed her eyes.
"No. I mean—don't press. Flick your thumb back and forth," she instructed him as he moved a hand to her other breast.
He gave her no answer but corrected his movements, brushing both thumbs over the hard tips, making her gasp and sending an electric current through her body that went right to her loins. She twitched and rose up slightly on her knees. Harry's hands followed her, still moving the way she had instructed him.
Oh, it was nothing like doing it herself. It was—it was bloody brilliant, as Harry had said. She crawled closer to him and threw a leg over his lap, straddling him, so he could reach her more easily. He growled in his throat, continuing to stimulate her, and she quickly worked out why he was growling. Under her skirt, she could feel a lump twitching and throbbing beneath her, separated from her only by her knickers and his own underwear and trousers. These barriers seemed like nothing as his continued ministrations made her rotate her hips uncontrollably, her mouth hanging slack as the rough fabric of his trousers agitated her flesh through her knickers.
"Oh, Harry," she moaned, leaning down to kiss him. He opened his mouth, his tongue flicking hungrily at hers. She was about to complain when he removed his hands from her chest, but he slid them under her blouse, his fingers rough against her bare skin in a delicious way, and he resumed moving his thumbs over the tips, no barrier between his hands and her skin, while she writhed atop him, heat flowing through her as she rubbed her knickers against him and felt Harry's breathing grow more erratic along with hers.
At length, he slipped a hand under her skirt, pressing it to her bum and egging her on, before sliding his fingers down the back of her knickers and tracing light circles on her skin, as if writing a secret message. The delicate sensation of those fingers added to everything else completely undid her. Fire rushed from her toes to the top of her head and she cried out, collapsing on him for a moment before rolling off. She lay by his side on the robe, staring at the hot blue sky before closing her eyes, trying to slow her breathing.
After a minute she felt him move beside her. He whispered, "Ginny?"
She opened her eyes, turning her head to look at him. Harry had rolled onto his side, leaning his head on his hand to gaze at her. The adorable lopsided smile was back and with his free hand he cupped her cheek affectionately. "Yes, Harry?" she whispered.
"Everything all right?"
She laughed, putting her hand over his where it cradled her cheek. "I think you know everything is much, much better than all right."
Harry looked happier than she'd ever seen him. "So—that was what I think it was?" he said, hinting broadly.
Ginny exhaled slowly through her nose, unable to stop looking at him. "That was exactly what you think it was, you clever, clever lad," she said, her voice huskier than she'd intended. She pulled his face to hers again and he immediately complied, kissing her deeply, rolling half onto her as his hand slipped beneath her back, crushing her breasts between them. As they kissed, he slipped his hand under her blouse again, cupping a breast and flicking the tip with his thumb. She sat up, pushing his hand away.
"Sorry, Harry—too sensitive right now," Ginny said, feeling like she still wasn't breathing quite normally.
"Oh. Right. I didn't think. I should have done, because I'm the same way when I—I mean—erm, never mind," he said, reddening. She couldn't help laughing.
"It's all right. I've told you—I know what boys get up to when they're alone. Six brothers, blah blah blah. I'd have been more surprised if you were the only boy on the planet who didn't take his 'needs' into his own hands. If you know what I mean."
He grinned and glanced at her very thin blouse again. "I know what I'll be thinking of the next time I do."
"Hmph!" she said with false indignance. "I should hope so!" They both laughed and she wanted to remember him like that always, laughing with abandon, a private little naughty joke just between the two of them. But suddenly, he became very serious again.
"Wait—was this what you meant about me having to be the one to put the brakes on if things went too fast? Did I just fail miserably?" He seemed so upset about failing her she wished she'd never asked him to do that. It didn't seem fair to him.
"Well—maybe a little. I was actually thinking of something that involves us wearing far fewer clothes—if any—" When she said this, he let out a groan and the lump under his trousers visibly twitched. He had that lopsided smile again and it took all of her self-control to not undress him with her teeth. "But to be honest—I don't exactly feel like I can complain after—after what just happened."
"That's true. It wouldn't be very sporting," Harry said with a mock-stern expression, wagging his finger. Ginny laughed and caught his hand with hers, leaning over to take the chastising finger between her lips and drawing it slowly into her mouth. He watched her with half-lidded eyes, his mouth hanging open as he moaned softly. She tried not to look at his trousers this time; she expected the lump was probably doing a very active dance under the cloth.
"And I'm nothing if not sporting," she said coyly, after popping his finger from her mouth. She engulfed the longer finger beside it with her mouth this time, sliding her tongue around it slowly and lightly caressing his palm with her fingertips as his moaning grew louder. He closed his eyes as she continued, his moans increasing steadily and evolving into a low growl that made her feel extremely powerful. Suddenly, he shuddered very quickly, grunting and convulsing on the ground in a way that concerned her at first, before she realized that it had nothing to do with his scar and everything to do with what was going on in his trousers. She froze, still holding his hand, peering at his face. He was prostrate on the robe, a slow smile spreading across his features, his eyes still closed.
"Bloody brilliant," he whispered. She became aware that she was breathing very shallowly and decided to be careful about touching him, since he'd said he was very sensitive at times like this. She lay beside him, gently resting her head on his shoulder.
After a few minutes, she whispered, "You'll have to clean up when you get back to the castle," not sure what people spoke about at a moment like this.
"I don't bloody care," he mumbled, still smiling, his eyes closed. She laughed at his expression. Part of her was rather proud of having caused him to lose control, but part of her was concerned.
He would be seventeen at the end of July. She wouldn't be sixteen until almost a fortnight into August. After the end of the term, she wouldn't see him until his birthday, when he would leave Privet Drive for the last time and come to the Burrow, soon to be the site of Bill and Fleur's wedding. But between now and the end of the term, anything might happen. She didn't know how they would keep their hands off each other before they returned to their respective homes. And after Harry came to the Burrow, it would be all she could manage not to pull him into her room at every opportunity and snog him senseless. If not more. Much more.
The bell rang for the end of lunch, startling her. Harry slowly opened his eyes.
He started to say, "We should—"
"Right. We should."
They moved about awkwardly, not meeting each other's eyes as they put on their robes and brushed them down. Ginny sighed. "I reckon I'll just have to work with my robe on in Herbology. I didn't think about that either when I got dressed today. I don't dare take it off. Professor Sprout will send me to McGonagall, and she'll give me an earful, perhaps detention…"
"…and you could make Colin faint and hit his head on the potting bench," Harry laughed.
"I thought Colin was the head of your fan-club, not mine," she said, smiling coyly.
"Just as well he stopped haring after me, taking photos. I reckon running into a basilisk with his camera cured him of that."
Suddenly, Harry seemed to realize he'd put his foot in it. Ginny swallowed and went back to fastening her robe, picturing poor Colin, one of her best friends, stiff as a board on a bed in the hospital wing, still clutching his camera.
"Sorry," Harry said, wrapping his arms around her and putting his head on her hair. She wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head on his chest, where she could hear his heartbeat.
Yes, keep doing that, she instructed his heart. Never stop. She closed her eyes, wishing this moment could never end. She knew Harry didn't mean to bring up bad memories, memories that made guilt stab through her like the Sword of Gryffindor. She remembered how hurt she'd been when he'd forgotten that she'd been possessed by Tom Riddle and she'd snapped at him, "Lucky you," while the colour drained from his face and he rushed to repair the damage he'd done. That was Harry—he'd been nice to her as long as she could remember, even when she mortally embarrassed him in front of dozens of people with a singing Valentine. The idea that he might hurt her had always been anathema to him. Was it any wonder she'd found it so difficult to get over him?
"Wait," Harry said, stepping back from her. He looked like he'd had a brainstorm. "Take off your robe again. No, not because we want you to give Colin or anyone else an eyeful," he added when he saw her face. "I've got a jumper in my bag. It's not heavy, so it won't be too warm, but it'll give you, er, coverage." He pulled a somewhat crumpled grey jumper from his bag and Ginny took off her robe again to put it on. Harry tried to fix her blouse collar and smooth out the wrinkles in the jumper for her, brushing his hands down her chest several times before she burst out laughing.
"Quite finished?" she asked, smirking at him. He also laughed.
"Well, now that I can touch you there…"
"You could have done before today. You didn't try," she said, one brow raised as her mouth twisted.
"We're still not even on chests, though," he said, attempting and failing to sound miffed. "You've seen mine but I still haven't seen yours. Not without a barrier."
"Perhaps so, but you've touched my chest without a barrier, so that will have to do for the moment, since the second bell is going to ring soon." She moved the shrubbery back to its original location, feeling quite confident that she would be able to competently reproduce this spell for Professor Sprout in a lesson.
Harry shrugged. "Sprout never pays that any heed, since you lot need to travel all the way out here for her lessons," he said as he stuffed her robe into her bag for her.
As if on cue, Ginny could hear the distant chatter of her mates in both Gryffindor and Ravenclaw as they walked to the greenhouses for Herbology, though they wouldn't arrive for another minute or two. Harry took her hand after she put her wand away and she looked up at him, at the green eyes that were almost black. He kissed her again, slowly, making her shudder and grasp his arms, feeling like she was liquid fire again. Her entire body seemed to sing with unfettered joy.
When he broke the kiss, he rested his brow against hers and gazed at her like he never wanted to stop, but he whispered, "You should go to Herbology."
She nodded. "I know." But she didn't move.
"Ginny!" he said, laughing. "The lesson will be starting." He handed her bag to her. She swung it over her shoulder, sighing.
"I know," she said again. "But you don't make it easy to leave."
"I'm trying to be a good boyfriend. I don't want you to go either, not after the best hour of my life."
She grinned shyly. "Best hour of your life?"
He gave her that look again, as if his eyes would burn into her soul. "Definitely." Hearing the huskiness in his voice, it was all Ginny could do to tell herself not to tear off all of her clothes and his and leap on him, in broad daylight, where anyone might see.
She swallowed and said, "Me too," before turning and half-running toward the greenhouses, her bag bouncing on her back as the sun beat on her bare head. She turned before entering the greenhouse. He still stood beside the boulder, watching her with a smile on his face. "Me too," she repeated in a whisper, feeling like his expression said it all, everything he wanted to say, and all she wanted to say, too.
That was the last day Ginny remembered seeing Harry smile until after the war. She'd tried to be a comfort to him after Dumbledore was killed, wondering if he would ask her to comfort him in a very particular way, but he didn't. She was glad; it wouldn't have seemed right, somehow, to indulge in making themselves happy when the world was crumbling around them. She hadn't been shocked when he'd told her that they couldn't continue to be together, though she also thought he was being stupid. In all honestly, she was more shocked that he'd let himself grasp at happiness in the first place, that he'd kissed her in the common room after the Quidditch Final as if he were just another teenage boy kissing the girl he fancied, a normal boy without the weight of the world on his shoulders. She wasn't at all surprised it had been as brief as it was. No matter how Harry tried, he could never pretend to be normal.
Then, when she kissed him on his birthday, it was as if a dam had broken; she poured her heart into that kiss, as she never had before, and she could tell by the way he was shaking that he knew, despite the ardour she'd previously displayed, that she had been holding back; she'd never truly let herself be completely free in showing her feelings. She also knew that nothing could come of it, not yet. If they were to be together again, that day was far in the future.
Ginny remembered thinking later that if she'd known that that hour by the lake was the last truly happy hour they would spend together for nearly a year she would have run back into his arms, she'd have skived off Herbology, she'd have let her OWL revision slide, all so she could savour every last second with him, every opportunity to make him happy and to be made happy by him. Happy hours would be hard to come by very soon, and she was glad that they'd at least had that hour by the lake, in the bright, hot sun, making a little happiness where they could before the dark days that would soon engulf them all.
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